The first poem in the first section of my book is ‘introduction.’ It mirrors a poem I wrote back in high school for my senior project, in which I self-published a chapbook of poetry. (For those who don’t know, a chapbook is a very short book, generally of less than forty pages and often of poetry.) I titled the chapbook Dissection: In Search of a Voice. At the time, the title was accurate as I was still coming of age, in a sense. I was eighteen for most of the time I was writing for the chapbook, but despite being technically an adult, I was still growing into myself.
I called the chapbook Dissection and many of my poems reflected that title in that I was trying to pick myself apart and be as honest as possible. But I wasn’t all that honest. I was still largely denying my depression, and by the time I was publishing the book, I felt that some of the poems were no longer true. They imagined a healthier me, a me without so many painful thoughts. They imagined someone who felt present and connected and who was not quite happy but not chronically unhappy.
The poems also reflected that I hadn’t explored my gender much. There was a poem about wanting to change my body to suit my mind, but this was an early stage of questioning. I still referred to myself as my birth sex, and I wouldn’t switch to they/them pronouns for several months.
But despite these flaws, Dissection was a picture of me at the time. It was as honest as I thought I knew how to be. And I wanted to remember Dissection even as I move on from it, so that’s why ‘introduction’ calls back to it, mirrors the language, echoes some of the same words, and says at the end, “I present my body and mind to you.”
Because that is what I am doing, when I write poetry. I am being honest, as well as I can. And I am presenting that painful honesty, clear and plain on the paper.
As for you, do you feel as if you’ve always been honest in what you write? How have you changed over the years, and how has your writing reflected that change? Do you think that honesty is important in poetry?